July 26, 2013

Kaiju of Mythic Mindanao!


“A long, long time ago Mindanao was covered with water, and the sea extended over all the lowlands so that nothing could be seen but mountains. Then there were many people living in the country, and all the highlands were dotted with villages and settlements. For many years the people prospered, living in peace and contentment. Suddenly there appeared in the land four horrible monsters which, in a short time, had devoured every human being they could find.

Kurita, a terrible creature with many limbs, lived partly on land and partly in the sea, but its favorite haunt was the mountain where the rattan grew; and here it brought utter destruction on every living thing. The second monster, Tarabusaw, an ugly creature in the form of a man, lived on Mt. Matutun, and far and wide from that place he devoured the people, laying waste the land. The third, an enormous bird called Pah, was so large that when on the wing it covered the sun and brought darkness to the earth. Its egg was as large as a house. Mt. Bita was its haunt, and there the only people who escaped its voracity were those who hid in caves in the mountains. The fourth monster, Kuraya, was a dreadful bird also, having seven heads and the power to see in all directions at the same time. Mt. Gurayn was its home and like the others it wrought havoc in its region.” – from Mabel Cooke’s Folktales of the Philippines.

Having just seen Pacific Rim, re-reading this could not help but produce one burning word association – Kaiju! Kuraya in particular reminds me of King Ghidorah from the Toho movies.

Cooke’s summary is from the epic Indarapatra at Sulayman, a Maranao tale commemorating the exploits of the heroic brothers Indarapatra and Sulayman* (surprise!). Rajah Indarapatra, who rules a golden land to the west – might this have referred to Malacca or one of the old Malay kingdoms like Pattani or Srivijaya? – hears of the monster infestations and sends his younger brother Sulayman to deal with it. Sulayman battles and slays the first three monsters, but Pah in its death throes crushes the valiant prince with its wings.

Indarapatra learns of Sulayman’s death from the death of a tree whose fate he bonded to his brother’s, and swearing vengeance, girds on his weapons and flies to Mindanao. There he finds the corpses of Kurita, Tarabusaw and Pah, and under Pah’s wing the bones of Sulayman.  He resurrects Sulayman with some enchanted water, and then goes on to slay Kuraya. The two have more adventures, winning royal maidens and founding new kingdoms. (Some versions seem to have Indarapatra dying in combat with the last monster; the happy-ending version I believe is the older one, as the Philippine epic pattern is to have the heroes found a kingdom after their trials, the epics being used as origin stories and glorifications of lineages claiming descent from the heroes).

So, are these kaiju-oids going to find their way into Hari Ragat? You bet your betel nuts they will!

*The names of the brothers also make me believe this epic is either a revision of an older, pre-Islamic story, or it dates back from the very earliest years of Islam’s adoption by the Malays. Indarapatra is a Sanskrit name, meaning son of Indra, while Sulayman is the Old Testament’s Solomon, a figure highly revered in Islam.

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